Moses Samuel, Liverpool Hebraist1

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Moses Samuel was born in London in 1795, the youngest of three sons of Hanna (Hinde) and Emanuel (Menachem) Samuel (born c. 1755). Emanuel Samuel, who bore the Hebrew title 'the learned', had left his birthplace, Kempen in the province of Posen (now Poland) and settled in London in about 1775. Emanuel died in 1800 when Moses was just five. The two elder sons, Nathan and Louis, moved to Liverpool to seek their fortunes. The eldest, Nathan, became a pawn? broker and navy agent and in 1820 became president of the Liverpool synagogue. The second, Louis, followed him to Liverpool: starting out as a pawnbroker, he became a silversmith and watchmaker and made enough money to retire in 1846 and return to live in London. In 1805, at the age of ten, Moses too was brought by his widowed mother to live in Liverpool.Moses Samuel remained in Liverpool for most of the rest of his life. He was proud of his prosperous, rapidly expanding, forward-looking and technologically innovative home city. 'All that is good', he later wrote, 'has possibly, in some degree, emanated from Liverpool.'3 The city's Jewish community in this period was the largest in England outside London: between 1812 and 1846 it grew from 400 to 2300 souls.4 Moses became known in the community as Moses Samuel Junior to distinguish him from another, older Moses Samuel (no relation), a well-known philanthropist, known as 'Rother Moshe' ('Red Moses'), who became a member of the Liverpool Athenaeum and presented it with a Torah Scroll.5 Our Moses Samuel followed his brothers into business as a watchmaker and silversmith. In 1821, at the Hambro Synagogue in London, he married Harriet (1793-1843), the sister of his brother's wife (i.e. the two brothers mar? ried two sisters). She was a daughter of Israel Israel of Bury Street, St Mary Axe, London. Moses and Harriet had two daughters and three sons; the latter followed the previous generation's example by marrying three sisters, daughters of Schreiner Wolfe of Great Yarmouth, first mayor of Kimberley, South Africa.

Moses Samuel was a man of lively mind, wide-ranging intellectual enthusi? asms, a quirky sense of humour, and a sometimes combative temperament. He seems to have received little formal education. As he later recalled: 'College Education was to us inaccessible; we had no opportunities of sweet Scholastic Peace, or means allotted to us for pursuing, with advantage, the Course of gen? eral Popular Studies; we have snatched learning eagerly from every useful source, amidst toils and troubles, and often amidst the pain of neglect.'6 In spite of his lack of means, Samuel collected a library that included a number of rare Hebrew books. He managed also to get hold of copies of early Hebrew period? icals published in Eastern Europe such as Ha-Me 'assef and Kerem Chemed; and he attained sufficient proficiency to write in the holy tongue. Samuel was, in fact, an outstanding linguist and is said to have mastered twelve languages, including Chinese.7 His self-education was a formidable achievement,

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